Ten Cent Beer Night

6 06 2008

Squirrel Queen is a historian of sorts when it comes to baseball promotions that go horribly wrong. I honestly love hearing her talk about things that she saw when there were only three channels watching

Saturday afternoon baseball with her grandfather. Their team was the Oakland A’s and if you aren’t familiar with some of Charlie Finley’s shenanigans, you should. Of course, I learned all of this from SQ. As she grew older and makes a living writing sports, she keeps her eyes on the game and the subculture of what goes on in baseball.

Last night, after a day of such frustration due to a broken vehicle and a thwarted attempt to take a vacation which is much needed by both of us, she told Badger and I about the ten cent beer night fiasco in Cleveland, as she had read a story on Page 2 about it.

The ’74 Indians were a smorgasbord of mediocre and forgettable talent playing in an open-air mausoleum. That year, in a city that fielded one of the founding professional teams (the Forest Citys, incorporated there in 1869), 85 percent of the seats at home games went unsold. All those empty seats meant a balance sheet written in red. The team’s executive vice president, Ted Bonda, could put up with losing teams and an ugly stadium (he had inherited both in 1972), but he would not tolerate insolvency. Bonda called a meeting to discuss options for improving attendance, which must have felt a little like trying to figure out how to get people excited about a trip to the orthodontist. Someone, apparently a team employee likely acting out of desperation, suggested copying the Texas Rangers, who had recently hosted a successful “10-Cent Beer Night.” We can imagine the grim silence in the boardroom as the group considered this obviously dangerous remedy. How interested would Cleveland be in such a promotion?


Accounts vary as to the volume proffered — 8 ounces? 10? 12? — but the price was certain enough: 10 cents per cup. Fans — and we shall use this term for lack of a better one — could buy up to six cups at a time, with no system in place to prevent a designated mule from purchasing a full complement, handing them off to underage clients, and returning for more.


The beat reporters worked overtime that night, particularly Dan Coughlin, from the Chronicle-Telegram of Lorain County, Ohio, who was punched in the face twice while interviewing fans. Those reporters smart enough to follow the teams into the safety of their clubhouses got more than stock responses about looking forward to the next contest.

Apparently it got scary and of course a riot ensued. When the stadium ran out of beer, they just pulled in the Strohs’ trucks and started selling it from there.

Ill-advised. It was ugly.

Players were injured, streaking occurred and everyone collectively lost their barley-water soaked minds.

The reason I’m writing about this today is how well this story is written. Some of the best articles out there are sports history tales that bring you in. Someone asked me recently who wants to get into the writing game of what she should look at when crafting a story.

I recommended reading the flow of a sports feature.

Squirrel Queen is pretty durn cool about this stuff if you ask me.



One response

6 06 2008

That’s a great one. Disco Demolition Night is a classic, too. Especially if you hate disco like I do.

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